Engineering a New World

Something Can Be Done About It

List of Largest Cities in the USA with No Metro / Passenger Rail

Living in Washington, DC, my Facebook feed is commonly filled up with complaints of “I HATE METRO!” whenever a train breaks down, track maintenance is being performed, A/C quits on one of the train cars, etc.  But, in comparison with many cities, we’re extremely fortunate to have a clean, non-rat-infested rapid-transit system which covers nearly the entirety of the urban area of DC Metro.

So, as a counterpoint to this, I’ve compiled a list of the 10  largest cities in the USA  with no Metro system of any sort – where your only option getting to work is either (a) sitting in your car in traffic, or (b) sitting in a bus that’s sitting in the same traffic as your car would be.

City Metro Area Population Rail Transit Commuter / Intercity Rail
Detroit, MI 5,207,434 There is a 2.9 mile people-mover loop in the downtown area, but no metro or light rail.  They plan to construct a first light-rail line by 2015. No commuter rail. Amtrak for inter-city service.
Orlando, FL 2.861,296 No metro or light rail. No commuter rail. Amtrak for inter-city.  There is meant to be a commuter rail line called SunRail which will open in 2014 and serve the I-4 corridor.
Tampa / St. Pete / Clearwater, FL 2,824,724 No metro or light rail. There’s a downtown tourist trolly in Tampa, but this is not for commuters.  Plus, it’s slower than walking. No commuter rail. Daily Amtrak service for inter-city.
San Antonio, TX 2,194,927 Nope, just buses. Daily Amtrak trains (no commuter rail)
Cincinnati, OH 2,179,965 No light rail or metro.  The city tried to construct a subway in 1927, but it was never completed – leaving a massive un-used tunnel under the city.  Every plan to try to bring train service to Cinci has failed thus far.  Edit: Adding link to new Cinci streetcar system which broke ground in 2012, set to open by 2015. No commuter rail. Amtrak service for inter-city.
Kansas City, MO 2,122,908 No light rail or metro.  Despite being the poster-child for urban sprawl (there are more freeway-miles per-capita in KC than anywhere in the USA), measures to re-construct what once was one of the finest streetcar systems in the world have repeatedly failed.  Edit: Adding link to new KC streetcar which is meant to open in 2015. No commuter rail. Amtrak service for inter-city.
Indianapolis, IN 2,103,574 No metro or light rail. No commuter rail. Amtrak for inter-city.
Columbus, OH 2,093,185 No metro or light rail.   Columbus is actually the largest city in the USA with no passenger train service of any kind whatsoever. No passenger rail service of any sort.
Raleigh-Durham, NC 1,795,750 No metro or light rail. No commuter service. Amtrak serves inter-city.
Milwaukee, WI 1,757,604 No metro or light rail. No commuter rail, and governor recently snubbed inter-city rail to Madison.  Only passenger rail service is 1x/daily Empire Builder and 7x/daily Hiawatha service to Chicago.

About turbotad

My name is Tad Reeves, and I am a certified AEM Dev/Ops Engineer, cycling enthusiast, train & transit junkie, and father of three. I’m currently an Adobe Experience Manager Architect, consulting for ICF Next, as well as for other companies.

16 comments on “List of Largest Cities in the USA with No Metro / Passenger Rail

  1. kabul
    August 30, 2013

    Cincinnati has inter-city Amtrak at Union Terminal and is constructing a streetcar

    • turbotad
      August 30, 2013

      Indeed it does. Updated the post to clarify such. Unfortunately that does little to help the folks stuck in daily commuter congestion. Hoping they do indeed go through with light-rail.

  2. Tom
    August 30, 2013

    The Tampa streetcar is definitely faster than walking… Unless someone is walking 2.7 miles in 15-20 minutes. Just FYI.

    • turbotad
      August 30, 2013

      True indeed. I guess my comment was a bit uncalled-for. However, with the amount of time I’ve spent in & around Tampa / Clearwater, the lack of a commuter solution just continues to baffle me – especially with the obvious money that’s gone into continually widening the freeway system. With an economy that’s also so heavily driven by tourism, there are so many light-rail alignments that would make sense in a metro area of that size & density.

    • Jonah
      August 30, 2013

      Given that the train only comes every 20 minutes, you’d be better off walking for pretty much any occasion other than going from the absolute end-to-end of the system…

  3. Bus62
    August 30, 2013

    Milwaukee is bigger than St Louis (metro pop of 1,566,981 according to Wikipedia) and has no urban rail system. One was planned in the 80’s but it died long ago. A streetcar is planned. Also Detroit’s people mover (with questionable utility) is for all intents and purposes heavy rail (metro), even if it is very short. I would take off Tampa and Detroit and add Milwaukee and whatever the next one is.

    • turbotad
      August 31, 2013

      You’re totally right in that the Detroit people-mover is – technically speaking – a heavy rail metro system. But the sprit I wrote the list in was if it would give commuters any sort of meaningful option in being able to get to & from work, and the Detroit People Mover (as well as the similar system that exists in Jacksonville, FL) only really provides some additional mobility within the CBD.

      With respect to Milwaukee, I was going to add that as well, and should have put it in place of Louisville. The population figures I used were the Primary Statistical Area figures from this page. But Milwaukee is especially relevant to the discussion due to the recent snubbing of high-speed rail expansion and service to Madison that the partisan BS in Wisconsin has given us. Milwaukee and Madison are barely further apart than DC and Baltimore or Dallas and Fort Worth, and as such a high-speed rail line connecting the two would have UNDOUBTABLY been used by commuters just as our DC->Baltimore MARC trains are.

  4. Dougie
    August 30, 2013

    San Antonio is planning a streetcar system which will is schedule to open by 2017.

    • turbotad
      August 31, 2013

      Do you have a link for such? Casual googling on my phone didn’t get me much of anywhere.

  5. Tim S Porter
    September 1, 2013

    While Miami has the Metrorail, the fact it doesn’t really go anywhere sucks, highly underused. The addition of the Airport(2012) spur is a big plus though.

  6. Caleb
    September 2, 2013

    Columbus needs a rail system. Yesterday.

  7. Mitch
    July 7, 2015

    The Las Vegas metro area should really be on this list as well. They are just now talking about building one. While there are only about 2 million residents, they had 41 million tourists visit the city in 2014. The only transit systems in existence are the monorail – which only covers the east side of the Strip (not even the airport) – and the bus system.

    • turbotad
      July 14, 2015

      Mitch – I couldn’t agree more. On one of my last trips to Vegas, I made a bunch of Youtube videos on the subject – as I stayed a good ways away from the convention I went to, expressly because I thought it was going to be easier to take the monorail. But then, I realized that the monorail was never intended as transit, and was instead meant to be another evil trick to get folks to take an I-can’t-believe-they-really-did-this circuitous route through 18 casinos to get to any individual station on the line, and then were blocked by the taxi companies from running the monorail to the airport.

  8. Austin James (@GtiAustin)
    December 15, 2015

    Fort Worth has only buses and one heavy rail line to Dallas as well as Amtrak. No inner city rail of any sort. It’s the 16th or 17th largest city in the USA.

  9. abenm613
    September 16, 2016

    Another interesting example is Nashville. It is the only metropolitan area in the entire country that has commuter rail in form of the “Music City Star” but doesn’t have Amtrak since the disappearance of the “Floridian” in 1979. I don’t think Nashville has any urban rail transit either.

    • turbotad
      September 22, 2016

      Hey – thanks for commenting. I’ve got an updated version of this list now up on

      I toyed with having Nashville on there, but then opted to leave out it and similar cities like Orlando and Fort Worth which did at least have some viable means of commuter rail in the city. Nashville could absolutely use urban mass transit, but at least – if you live in ONE direction out of the city – you do have an option besides “drive in to downtown” or “take a bus into downtown”. Unlike cities like Tampa which have no similar option.

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This entry was posted on August 30, 2013 by in technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .
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